As the winter holidays are approaching and people already start planning their summer vacations, it is time to have a look at what the trends and statistics tell us about travel and tourism in 2022.
Uncertainty is the new certainty
The travel industry news site Skift says that uncertainty is the new certainty. Many international travel and aviation-oriented organisations, e.g., UNWTO, WTTC, IATA, have predicted that travel and tourism will take several years to recover to the levels it was prior to the pandemic. The experts surveyed by UNWTO believe that tourism will rebound as late as year 2024, or even later. However, the prospects for 2022 are looking better than in the previous pandemic years.
We are now back in the tourism numbers of 30 years ago. The pandemic has put international tourist arrivals down by over 75 % – which means a billion travellers – by over 100 million direct tourism jobs and USD 1.3 trillion in tourism receipts. The losses are mind-boggling. After all, tourism used to be a growth industry.
There is growth already to be seen, but the levels are still very low. Asia, Africa and the Middle East have suffered the most losses in arrivals since the onset of the pandemic, but robust domestic US tourism has kept the American travel dream alive and kicking. The fact is, though, that no one knows where the pandemic will take us next. We can only hope.
Barriers to tourism recovery
According to UNWTO, the biggest barriers to tourism recovery are travel restrictions, slow virus containment and low consumer confidence. The uncertainties in the economic outlook, the lack of coordinated response among countries to the pandemic and the slow flight resumption are also making tourism rebound difficult.
The pandemic is by far the most severe crisis the industry has ever faced. And it has had several crises like 9/11, SARS, MERS, the global financial crisis in 2008 and the impact of climate change. None of them have affected tourism quite as much, though. If we recover from the Omicron variant, there may be another even more contagious one coming up. Businesses are becoming more wary about committing to long-term marketing campaigns. Flexibility, agility and last-minute reactions are the norm nowadays.
The GOATs are ready to be released
Hopeful signs are, however, in the air. Consumers are tired of sitting at home and want to go and discover the world again. They long to travel and make bigger plans than ever. Some feel that the pandemic has stolen two years from them and fear that they now have less time left to cover the world.
Expedia has recently named this new “no-regrets” style of travel the “GOAT” (Greatest of All Trips) mindset. People with the GOAT mindset seek excitement, richness and meaning in their experiences. They want to make the most of their trips, treat themselves to exhilarating experiences and spend money quite freely.
In fact, Amadeus has noticed a significant increase in searches for epic destinations. For example, searches for Tanzania (a destination where it is possible to see the Big Five in the wild) have increased by 36 % and bookings to the Peruvian cities near Machu Picchu have gone up by nearly 50 %. Even Antarctica has popped up in searches showing a growing demand for travel to this unique destination.
From watching the screen back to real adventures
It is no surprise that after spending months, even years, working on Zoom and Teams and kicking back with just TV, Netflix and YouTube, people are craving real adventures. UNWTO and Netflix teamed up to have a closer look at how movies and drama series can drive tourism. It seems that the desire to visit destinations and faraway places often stems from locations that are presented on screen.
It is obvious that this is good news for the tourism business as well. The pandemic made it almost impossible to do anything, let alone travel on a whim. The crisis has made people ponder on their timing – what if there is a new crisis looming around the corner and we will be locked down again? For the pandemic era travellers, the moment is now.